Which Home Assistant Should I Buy?

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Home assistants: they’ll turn on your television, open the shades, adjust the thermostat and turn on the lights. Once in a while they may think you’re asking for “pickled gallows” when you’re trying to have them add “pico de gallo” to your shopping list, but all and all, they’re pretty helpful.

Personal assistants are so helpful that, according to Pew Research, 46 percent of Americans today take advantage of digital voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. And why not? They can make life a whole lot easier, one little voice command at a time.

But which one is properly suited to your smart home configuration?

Breaking It Down: Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri

The best minds of tech and business have put Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri head-to-head and each came back with the same results. There is no clear winner in the digital assistant world. There are some things that Alexa does phenomenally that Siri can’t and vice versa. Often, the best digital assistant is the one that works with devices you already have and fits into your budget.

So, instead of wasting your time with yet another face-off, let’s just talk about what each brings to the table so you can decide for yourself what you really want your digital assistant to do. 

Alexa: Great for Shopping, Smart Home, Helping Out

Since she’s linked to Amazon’s massive shopping database, she’s great at helping you find deals on items you may be interested in, reordering supplies you buy on the regular and keeping track of your shopping lists. A few clicks in the Alexa app gives her access to your Google calendar, allowing her to add or recite the day’s events.

As an added bonus, the standard Amazon Echo is a solid speaker for music or audio books. There’s even a second generation model available with a device hub already integrated to make connecting smart home devices easier. The price point on these two devices ranges from $99.99 to $149.99.

Google Home: Full of Answers, Gets Your Pizza Right

Google Home will work with some of the most popular smart home devices, with more being added all the time. Like its parent, Google, this device is all about finding answers to everything and anything. If that’s the kind of assistant you need, then this is the one you want. Reviewers have proclaimed, hands down, that Google Assistant has the best voice recognition overall, which leads to a lot less frustration in general.

Ordering food is a breeze with Google Home, provided it supports the food app you’re trying to use. Plan on watching a movie with that pizza your Home just ordered? Have it fire up the Chromecast while you get the blankets and wine glasses out! 

The Google Home unquestionably wins the aesthetics award when compared to clunky Alexa. With it's sleek design and changeable base colors and wraps available, it can blend seamlessly into your home, or stand out as an attractive accent! Priced around $129.99, and Google Mini clocks in at about $50 (but they're pretty easy to find sale for less).

Siri: The New Kid on the Block

Siri’s just now moving into the Apple HomePod, so what she’ll be capable of is anyone’s guess. She was finally freed from the confines of the smartphone on February 9, 2018. Now, you need only hand over $349 to Apple and you can have your very own speaker version. Like Google Assistant, Siri can do some smart home stuff, but she’s limited to Apple Homekit compatible devices. Because she grew up inside a telephone, though, she’s still pretty great at connecting you to friends and family, making her an awesome tool for hands-free calling from anywhere in your home.

Apple HomePod does a few things that no other voice assistant enabled speaker can do. First, it requires almost no setup, since it auto-detects where it is in the room by sending out audio blasts and listening for them to bounce back. That’s a pretty slick trick and ideal for anyone who struggles with technology.

Secondly, the folks at Apple have given a lot of thought to security and decided their best response was to untangle your searches from your account. Instead of associating your data with your name, Apple HomePod associates your data with random numbers, then deletes the associated data every six months. That way if the government were to request your data for some reason (like they think you’re the Scranton Strangler), Apple can honestly say they don’t know what data is yours and refuse to comply. This has roots in an old dispute with the federal government over the creation of a backdoor into the iPhone for surveillance purposes.

Make Your Home Smarter, Any Way You Can

Really, it doesn’t matter which digital home assistant you choose in the end. They’re all going to make your life a lot easier in the end. 

One final word of advise: don't choose one over the other because of brand recognition. I have an iPhone I couldn't live without, am way too dependent on Amazon, and refuse to use and Android phone, but in my household we've adopted to Google Home after giving Alexa a shot. Have your friends with these devices show you how they use them, and ask what their frustrations are. 

Philip Schwartz